OKLAHOMA CITY — Wednesday was the first time through the first four games of the season the Thunder resembled the kind of team that won 60 games a season ago and made the NBA Finals two seasons ago.
Yeah, it’s early, and it was just a 107-93 regular-season win against the Dallas Mavericks, but here’s three things to get super-excited about with the Thunder, one thing to worry about and a pair of facts you can impress your friends and co-workers with.
Get excited about… 1. Russell Westbrook. Simple as that. This was angry Russ Wednesday night. The kind of Russ we were used to seeing. He got to the rim, he got mad, he dunked.
Feels good to see that, doesn’t it?
“It’s what we expect,” coach Scott Brooks said. “It’s who he is. He’s a talented player who has improved every year. This is still part of his continuing to work through some of the rust. There are plays that he will make more consistently. This is what we were expecting.”
Well, excuse the rest of us if we were a little nervous about what to expect. Hard to predict what might happen with Westbrook considering he didn’t take part in any basketball activities over the summer and didn’t play any preseason games, even missed the first pair of games this season.
Wednesday, Westbrook was really good. He was 10-of-20, had four assists and scored 22 points. Way faster than anyone guarding him, too.
Gotta figure he’s only going to get better as he gets his legs back and gets used to being on the court. Think about the first five or six games as exhibitions for Westbrook. After that, we can go back to picking on him, right?
2. Steven Adams can play and he can take a blow to the jaw, too. Well, this much we can say about Kendrick Perkins: We knew him well. The end is upon Kendrick Perkins and not necessarily expected. At least not this soon.
That’s what happens when Steven Adams plays this way.
The minutes are going to go to the new guy who has somehow played better in the NBA than he did last year against Syracuse and Seton Hall. Wednesday against Dallas, Adams played 20 minutes, had six points, seven rebounds, no turnovers and then took a shot in the chops from Vince Carter who was kicked out of the game.
“He works hard,” coach Scott Brooks said of Adams. “He gets a little bit every day. He’s going to improve a little bit at a time. He’s been very good every day in practice. Still needs to learn the game.”
Sure, Brooks is right. Adams does have a lot to learn, however, his on the job training is a better option than Perkins. Perkins played 14 minutes and had four points and six rebounds.
“It’s going to be game to game,” Brooks said of who might play more between Perkins and Adams. “I look at the production of both of them. That can flip flop. I thought he (Adams) played good. I thought Perk played good. Both had good numbers combined.”
Adams is faster, more agile and showed both when he caught a pass from Kevin Durant in the lane and dunked it. Those are things Perkins doesn’t do very well. Then again, Adams doesn’t have the stare Perkins has, either.
As for the elbow?
“Definitely felt it,” Adams said. “I just don’t like reacting to it. It’s unfortunate that it happened, really.” He added, “I feel fine, bro.”
3. Shoot, yeah OK, finally. Seems like it’s been forever since the Thunder made shots. It happened Wednesday, and while, granted, the Mavs guard players like they are scared of picking up a cold, OKC needed a night like this one.
The Thunder shot 54 percent from the field and 38 percent from the 3-point line. Pretty good, considering the Thunder came in shooting 39 percent (last in the league) from the floor and 22 percent from the 3-point line (last in the league).
Shots were bound to fall, but after that dreadful start, it was certainly worth asking when that might be.
Serge Ibaka’s performance was perfectly indicative of what the Thunder have dealt with this season. He came into the game 11-for-40 this season (27.5 percent). Wednesday, Ibaka went 8-for-10, had 13 rebounds and wound up with 17 points.
Durant came in shooting 42 .6 percent and went 7-of-16. Jeremy Lamb was four-of-seven and made three-of-five 3-pointers in his best game of the season.
It was time the Thunder figured it out.
But one thing to worry about… Maybe you’re not concerned, but you should at least spend some time pondering how this bench, more importantly, how this sixth-man thing will play out.
Wednesday, it was Collison who was good for 17 minutes, four points, a rebound and five fouls. Last game it was Lamb. Next game, it could be Reggie Jackson.
A concern because in the past the first guy off the bench has been a done deal. Kevin Martin last year and James Harden the year before. This year, there’s gonna be issues and there’s gonna be inconsistencies, too. Expect that. Maybe Brooks just goes with the hot hand, but it’s a real possibility no one will be that hot hand. And finally, two facts that will make you seem really smart 1. Perry Jones had his best game of the season Wednesday. You can tell your friends with a good degree of certainty that Jones is going to end up playing real minutes this year. He’s done it so far through four games and figured into the rotation in the first half against the Mavericks, playing six minutes. Jones went two-for-two Wednesday and had a pair of rebounds.
2. Tell your co-workers the Thunder will never lose to the Mavs again. Yeah, ever. Wednesday’s win was the 11th in a row and it sure seems like the upside is with the Thunder. The Mavs are getting really old, the Thunder have an excellent mix of both experience and youth.
If they disagree, tell them to go ahead and make the case for Dallas. While they are thinking about ways Vince Carter and and DeJuan Blair will figure it all out, sit back, make yourself a sandwich and and wait. It’s gonna be awhile before they get back to you.